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     The North East Regional Station,  1994 - 1997
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Century Radio, North East England, 1994 - 1997

by Ben Baxter

Suggestions, comments, corrections? contact me!

Please note: I am NOT Century Radio
and have no connection with the station.


Handy Tip: Century is now known as Real Radio.

Century Radio was a regional radio station broadcasting to the north east of England, from Alnwick in the North on 101.8FM to Thirsk in the South on 100.7FM. A Border Radio Holdings station, the direction of the station seemed very much decided by John Myers and John Simons, managing director and program director respectively. These two also appeared on air, with John Myers broadcasting as John Morgan in the morning and John Simons at drivetime. The personality-based station had a 50/50 mix of music and speech, and began broadcasting on Monday, September 1, 1994 at 8 a.m. This was the first time John Myers would announce that 'a star is born' and play the Barbra Streisand record of the same name (he did exactly the same on the other two Century stations, as well as at Real Radio which he went on to spearhead after Capital Radio Group bought the three Century stations from BRH in 1999). There was a huge pre-launch advertising campaign to raise awareness of the new station both on billboards, in newspapers and even on television with the slogan "the best thing for ears" which was not carried through to the on air presentation at launch. The north-east region was split into two by the two transmitters and advertising was sold and adverts played separately in each micro region. Century's ratings were strong from day one, with them being only #2 in the region after just one year on air. Their main rival was Metro with at least 25% more listeners per week. The highest migration of listeners in the region appeared to be from Virgin Radio's audience in 1994.

The original presenter line-up included Andy Hodgson, John Morgan, Simon Bates (ex-Radio 1), Tony Fisher, Paul Frost (TTTV), John Simons, Steve Phillips, Phil Matthews, and a large news team who broadcast a rolling news service for two hours every weekday. After securing commentary rights for Middlesbrough Football Club, Saturday consisted of sports programming on the 100.7FM Teesside transmitter, with Gary Davies presenting the Light Top 40 in the north on 101.8FM. Sunday had a two hour gardening phone in - unheard of on local commercial radio today, Country Countdown USA for three hours (a syndicated show from the USA), and ex-Tyne Tees TV in-vision continuity announcer Neville Wanless with nostalgia for three hours. There were also unique overseas personalities after a couple of years, such as the Canadian Moose Evans and American "PJ the DJ" - which was interesting to hear in itself, even if it was on overnights.

Programme controller John Simons also took a risk by employing Mike 'The Mouth' Elliott as the late-night phone in host 6 months after launch to replace Phil Matthews' late night love songs show. Mike Elliott was previously known as a standup comedian, but excelled as a late-night host. This appointment was not without controversy - Elliott's increasingly controversial 'shock jock' style made sure that the Radio Authority were often listening, and on the occasion when he told a caller who was proud that she was cheating the benefits system to "f*** off", it was by chance that a member of the Radio Authority happened to be listening in at the time. He was immediately taken off air and the rest of the show was music. John Simons admitted at the Radio Festival in Cambridge 2002 that Century did in fact have a 'slander budget' of between £10,000 and £50,000 to cover any 'legal eventualities' from their big personalities. Mike could ad lib like no-other, and when the studios had a power cut (which actually happened quite often) instead of the DAT tape of Andy Hodgson being played until the computers were back up and running, Mike just talked for over 20 minutes - hilarious stuff. (in the mid 00s, Elliott presented a nationally networked phone-in show on a large number of local Radio Investments company stations called "North South Divided" teamed via ISDN with Alex Dyke from Isle of Wight Radio).


Paul Gough and John Myers

John Morgan was very much the star of the station - his Breakfast Gamble (similar to Take Your Pick) hooked listeners for the best part of an hour every morning for two weeks at a time and led to complaints from employers that most of their staff were sitting in the car park waiting to hear the final outcome of the gamble to hear if the caller would take the money or open the envelope. The prizes were pretty spectacular too - £10,000, a new car, a round-the-world holiday, etc. Century were also the first station to give away a new £52,000 value Wimpy house in a very long promotion and elaborate day-long outside broadcast. However, Morgan (whose real name is John Myers) was seemingly growing tired of the on-air presenting and was keen to develop his career in radio station management. He was always looking for a way or an excuse to get off the air for good - the listeners loved him and ratings plummeted when he was not broadcasting on the breakfast show. He finally took his leave when Princess Diana was killed, never to return to the Century airwaves again for a regular show. I think, years later, that he did a network show on all 3 Century stations called "Fun on the Phones" and this may have also been carried on to Real Radio. There was an attempt to replace John Morgan at breakfast with Steve Colman, an ex-GNR presenter, but the listeners didn't take to him, considering him the reason why Morgan was not there any more. Ratings plummeted, advertisers threatened to pull, and Morgan was back on after 3 weeks and a rather public debacle in the national press with jibes from both parties. Colman claims he wasn't given a chance, and I don't know what went on behind the scenes. Morgan did breakfasts again for a year. Then the Century breakfast show was taken over by Paul Gough, who remained in the slot for a number of years. I think Paul had been a mobile DJ in the area, and began as a correspondent for Morgan's breakfast show after some graveyard shifts. From memory, this was in 1995/6(?) when he was accompanying the Everfresh pink pig in a promotion where listeners would have to shout 'Everfresh!' at the pig to win a voucher for meats. Gough used to drop hints about how nice the Hanson Honda car was which was also part of the promotion, and how much he'd like to keep it after the event. After doing Saturday nights, he then presented several time slots, ending up with the breakfast show which was almost as popular as Morgan's. Paul then went to Metro / TFM for a weekend show in the mid-00s and now runs a PR consultancy.

When Border Radio Holdings purchased Sun FM in Sunderland, Century ran a news story about it, introducing John as John Myers and not John Morgan as he gave, in business speak, a statement regarding the takeover. He had already 'outed' himself as John Myers in the first issue of the Listener Club newsletter with a photo.

In the past, John Myers was a continuity announcer on Border Television (hence the BRH link?), is a big Carlisle United fan and loves submarine films. Century even advertised nationally on Granada Plus, a satellite channel with the line "whenever you're in the north east, listen to Century", which was a pretty ambitious and unique thing for a local radio station to do. Morgan was also on BBC 1's Noel's House Party as his comedy character Mr. Martin, a pigeon fancier and wind-up caller (he claimed the reason he did not get chosen to be visited by a live camera crew to film him singing his song was because he had made sarcastic comments about Edmonds' shirts in rehersals earlier that day). Century even helped the BBC to find other Newcastle-based acts for the item, as John Simon's claimed the BBC in Newcastle weren't the audience the House Party were after. Myers did however get Century mentioned on national primetime TV to an audience of over 13 million. (the next week another local radio presenter - from Hereward I think - was a contestant and didn't get chosen either). Morgan also breathed some life into a dire Tyne Tees TV topical magazine programme which was on after the newly launched "Tyne Tees News with Mike Neville" when Tyne Tees re-branded itself as "Channel 3 North East". Ingrid Haagman from Metro FM's evening show was the main presenter, but did not transition well to TV. Morgan co-presented the programme a few months after launch. TTTV would fax his script over, and one week the Gardening Phone in hosts, fronted by John Simons, started reading it out on their show until Morgan rushed in to confiscate it! Simons later referred to the enormous size of Morgan's earpiece mould looking like a deaf-aid.

Century had a listener club, which wasn't free to join, but did send out regular full colour newsletters and had nights out organised and compered by Andy Hodgson (who is now head of presentation at Bid TV). You can hear some telescoped clips of Andy on Century on the radio section of his own website. I'm afraid I was never up that early to hear him!

At the time, Century's new computerised studios were state-of-the-art and one of the most technically advanced installations in all of Europe. They were very proud of them and used to give regular hour long tours in the evenings to groups of 20 people at a time. Perhaps it was all too easy to voice track shows, as one day when other presenters were ill or on holiday, Tony Fisher not only presented the mid-morning show, screened calls on the lunchtime phone-in, and presented drivetime but also presented the graveyard shift from 1 till 5a.m.! Tony did like his jingles and often used the instrumental mix-outs of the original jingle package on his drivetime show. Rod Hardisty, the station's technical producer and engineer (who made regular appearances on Mike Elliott's late night phone in) was very kind and sent me a copy of the jingles on tape when I was 15.

I have a lot of recordings of Century jingles, adverts, promos and trailers on minidiscs converted from tapes, and I will be gradually adding these to this site as time allows. Stay tuned!

For a while I always thought there was a link between Century and the Midlands' Heart FM as they had the same KVIL jingle package resung and also the same company to design their logos which both had a very similar style. For more information on the Century jingles, visit the audio page on this site.

In many ways, Century was a bit of an old boys club - the only female voices were newsreaders - and many staff had previously worked at Radio Tees in the 1980s. I believe the first and only female DJ before the station was sold to Capital was the American "PJ the DJ".

Century was then re-branded as Century FM, owned by Capital Radio, who then merged with GWR Group to become GCap, and was mainly pop music targetted at women presented by southern presenters, encapsulated by their 'hairbrush divas' TV adverts for compilation CDs. Nothing like it was! I used to think it was strange having a station aimed at women through the day, only to have a football phone in at early evening.

Abridged from Broadcast: "On 19th October 2006 Guardian Media Group bought Century FM (and also the Manchester Century) from GCap for £60m. Both stations have assets of £1.5m and in the year to 31 March generated earnings before interest, taxes, etc. of £5.3m. GCap will continue to sell the station's ads and receive commission from the revenues for five years under the terms of the deal. GMG chief executive John Myers said he was delighted to retake control of the Century FM stations, which he launched in 1994."

On 30th March 2009 Century Radio was re-branded "Real Radio" to be in-line with the other GMG regional stations in Scotland, Yorkshire and Wales. So did Century in Manchester. The Century North East radio station used the name "Century" for fourteen and a half years.

Century 106 in the East Midlands was sold to Chrysalis who were bought by Global Radio, and the station re-branded as Heart 106.

What is my relationship with Century? I do not have one. I listened from the test transmissions in 1994 when I was 14 - it was such an exciting station which introduced me to the fun of radio. I started doing hospital radio whilst at school, then went on to a media degree, then a masters in radio production at Bournemouth University. I'm now a part-time voice-over artist working from home, but aside from that do not have any radio related activity. Aside from being in the listener club, buying a Century mug and pen and getting a tape of the jingles from Rod, I was merely a listener! I think I got one mention on air from Mike Elliot when I sent in a name badge, but I missed it. In 2002, I shook John Simons' hand at the Radio Festival in Cambridge, but I think I took him by surprise and he probably thought I was weird. John Myers was also there on occasion, but I never had the opportunity to say how great Century was. After this, but not directly caused by it, my love of radio diminished. I listened to Primetime Radio on DAB until it went off air, Allan Lake on Capital Disney until he left, Iain Lee on LBC until he resigned, and now I don't listen to any radio anymore.

I'm proud to say that both John Myers and Andy Hodgson have both sent nice email comments to me about this site, so however far from an official seal of approval, it's nice to know what they thought!

The text of this article is copyright Ben Baxter. All right reserved. It may not be reproduced in whole or part without prior written consent.

Please note: I am NOT Century Radio
and have no connection with the station.

The original logo from launch. In 1997 an additional slogan was added below it, "The Heart of the North East". The logo after Capital bought the station - a bit boring really! Another version of the Capital logo. Unfortunately a jaunty angle does not a great logo make. Early 00s logo. Same typeface, but fleshed out a bit with an icon 'C' graphic. After GMG bought the station, they dropped the "FM" and brought back "Radio" and used the Real Radio logo as the basis for this period (clearly with the plan to one day re-name the station, which they did).

 

Please note:
This is NOT the Century Radio website but a tribute site!

Original content (ie text) is © BenBax.com 2010. All rights reserved.
This site is in no way officially authorised, endorsed or affiliated with Border Radio Holdings, GMG Media or Century / Real Radio / Heart / Global